U.S. Bancorp Foundation: Grants for Visual Arts

OVERVIEW: The U.S. Bancorp Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the financial services company and supports education, workforce development, economic development, affordable housing, and arts and culture in the areas where its bank has a presence.

IP TAKE: The U.S Bancorp Foundation is a significant supporter of visual arts organizations—particularly museums—within its focus on arts and culture. The foundation views this support as part of a larger context of community development and uplift. This funding is an open application process and includes the potential for general operating costs. But keep in mind that funded visual arts projects must take place in one of the 28 states where its corporate side does its banking.

PROFILE: The U.S. Bancorp Foundation is the philanthropic arm of U.S. Bancorp, the financial services company based in Minneapolis. A word here about corporate nomenclature: The company U.S. Bancorp is often referred to as U.S. Bank, which is the signage their bank storefronts (and commercial website) use. By extension, U.S. Bancorp Foundation is often referred to as U.S. Bank Foundation—on its own website, the two names are used somewhat interchangeably. Formally, (including by IRS designation) the foundation discussed here is the U.S. Bancorp Foundation. Regardless of some flexibility in its naming, this foundation supports grantmaking to arts organizations.

In past years, the foundation provided $26.2 million in grant funding, and more than 15 percent of that went to its focus on Cultural and Artistic Enrichment, with directives to develop audiences (particularly in underserved populations), bring “select and limited civic amenities” to rural communities, and to promote arts education.

Visual arts is a primary aspect of this granting area. The foundation views support, uplift, and development for communities in need—within the 25 states where its banking occurs—as key to its granting mandate: Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Unlike many of its corporate granting peers who give to arts organizations, U.S. Bancorp Foundation earmarks grants for general operating support as well as program support (and capital projects too, under stricter circumstances).

In the world of visual arts, U.S. Bancorp Foundation prioritizes museums (though perhaps they are also applying more than other visual arts groups). But in a nice change of pace, these museums are working and producing within a range of communities—big, small, urban, and rural—as well as presenting a diverse array of visual art. Across all funding areas, the foundation’s watchwords are “innovative” and “effectiveness.” It doesn’t define either adjective further, but they are certainly descriptors for grantseekers to be mindful of when approaching U.S. Bancorp Foundation for a grant. Applications are online.

Grants range from about $5,000 to $50,000, but sometimes offer more. Past grantees include the Denver Art Museum (Denver, CO); the Crocker Art Museum (Sacramento, CA); the Minneapolis Society of Fine Arts (Minneapolis, MN); and the Milwaukee Art Museum (Milwaukee, WI), among others.

On the corporate side, U.S. Bancorp has a Corporate Sponsorship program that supports a small and select group of “leading arts and cultural organizations.” Visual arts is not prevalent within this very short list, but it is another avenue for grant seekers to pursue.


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